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Month: February 2012

Let The Bullets Fly

That didn’t suck.

Let The Bullets Fly is not really a Chow Yun Fat movie in the way that The Ides of March isn’t really a George Clooney movie. It’s just that when you get an actor that charismatic, a movie tends to lean towards him or her. Pleasingly enough, Jiang Wen is equally magnetic and is both the star and the director, so the charisma duel is just about even. You can’t say the same for the duel between their characters, but that’s the story of the movie. Note: it’s a battle of wits, without a whole lot of significant gunplay. It’s a black comedy at heart.

I don’t expect a Hong Kong comedy to be dry and witty, thanks to decades of Stephen Chow and a lot of Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung slapstick. Let The Bullets Fly is completely wry. There’s slapstick in the way the Coen Brothers do it: with a lot of bite beneath the surface. It’s also fairly poignant in a weird sort of a way. Without ever making it explicit, Jiang Wen’s Pocky Zhang undergoes a transformation during the course of his long con.

It’s a gorgeous movie as well. The 1920s vistas are spectacular and Jiang Wen has a great sense of motion. His imagery is likewise excellent. He uses certain visuals, in particular a fortune in silver, as unifying thematic elements. When the final scene is reached and he substitutes something else for the silver, it’s awfully powerful and effective.

Recommended, as long as you don’t expect another Chow Yun Fat heroic bloodshed piece.

Price Awareness

I don’t get the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. It’s a pretty standard tablet, with LTE as the standout feature. It’s a 7.7″ model. It runs Android 3.3 — in theory ICS will come in the future, but we hear that a lot. At 16 GB of storage, it retails for $499 with a two year contract. How does that make sense when the 16 GB iPad 2 is selling for $580 no contract at Best Buy? And where’s the cheaper WiFi model?

10 Hours, 5 Movies

In a hypothetical world, someone with a huge cache of Hong Kong flicks but without clearance to show them might ask attendees of a movie marathon to stay mum about the actual movies shown.

In unrelated news, the Alamo Drafthouse Hongkongathon was way better than I’d anticipated. I was expecting a bunch of exploitation stuff and a good time, rather than great movies. In practice, Grady Hendrix showed us two serious classics, two pretty entertaining movies, and one bottomless pit of sleazy horror. I managed to stay awake for the whole thing by some minor miracle, given my advanced age. Grady’s effervescent introductions probably had a lot to do with that. We started at 10 PM and got out at 7:30; five movies and two trailer reels. One trailer reel was dedicated to Category 3 erotica, which perhaps saved us from having to watch an entire Cat 3 movie. Good call. The other one was trailers for 70s US releases of Shaw Brothers flicks, and highly entertaining.

If you dig Hong Kong movies this would actually be worth the travel to Austin if they do it again. They think they might. Awesome.

Emoticon (MHRP)

As one does, I wrote up my old superhero PC Emoticon in the hot new superhero RPG. This time, it’s Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. MHRP character writeups are tied to specific versions of the characters, both in powers and in XP Milestones, so I decided to do this writeup as the youthful, optimistic Emoticon. In actual play he went all the way through the Weight of Responsibility Milestone, but I don’t think he ever finished up the True Teen Love Milestone.

I’m not sure how I’d add the martial arts he picked up later — actually, he had a bit of it early on, too. But that’d be a third Power Set, which is a bit more spread out than typical MHRP characters. You could drop it into the Projective Empathy Power Set, but the Limit doesn’t make sense.

There are a couple of small tricks in the original Champions UN PEACE gear package that I skipped. Flash Defense never came up, so you could represent it with a stunt, and the radio headsets are most easily handwaved.

Oh, and I added a Social Specialty, because it’s missing and there clearly ought to be one. Cite: Johnny Storm, socialite extraordinaire, with no particular business acumen at all. Emma Frost might also fit in that category.

Mike Doughty

Mike Doughty, acoustic guitar, around 150 people, “Country Roads.” So that’s a nice way to spend an evening with one’s beloved. If you didn’t know Doughty was touring solo to promote his new book, now you know. If you didn’t know you should go see him, you know now. If you don’t like music that’s so dry you might not realize you have to drill through the bedrock to get at the vast lake of pain underneath, that’s a fair objection and I won’t think the less of you for passing it up. He’s kind of an odd taste. I love what he does with sound and the way he uses his voice, but it’s a pretty idiosyncratic little corner of the musical universe.

He’s pretty fucking bitter about Soul Coughing. I had no idea. I can’t blame him given the stories he tells.

During the encore he said that piracy is A-OK with him, and if you bought the album he wanted you to burn a copy of it so more people can listen to it. Works out for him artistically and economically. Bug me if you’d like to talk more about that. Encore, yeah. He’s still doing the deal where he turns his back to the audience during the encore ritual.

Oh, his girlfriend’s from West Virginia, so he learned “Country Roads” for her. Although he’s been a fan of it for a while so who knows? But he does it straight, no irony, and it’s lovely.

Poll Promotion

So C. E. Murphy is up for a Rose & Bay Award for crowdfunded fiction. You should vote for whichever fiction you like best, but if you don’t know the others and you like Catie’s stuff, you can take my word on it: she’s the right choice. LJ membership not required. Also, if you want to continue voting in that vein, you can vote for me as crowdfunding patron of the year. I think Catie nominated me for this because I pestered her until she tried patron-funded writing, which is totally kind of her.


Chronicle is a sort of unfortunate title. Hard to search for it, and it’s a lousy entrance point into the film. If you hadn’t seen the trailer, you’d never know what it was about. On the other hand, once you’ve seen the movie and you’re done getting smacked around by the turbulence caused by all your exploding assumptions, it’s a huge clue about the underlying mise en scène of the movie.

If you have seen the trailer, you only sort of know what it’s about, but that’s par for the course. Let me fix that for you. Have no fear; I won’t spoil anything you don’t find out immediately. At least not before the cut.

Here’s the important thing: it’s not a found-footage movie. The movie you see on the screen cannot be an artifact from the fictional reality. Everything’s framed as a camera shot from within the fiction, but there’s nobody who would or could piece together the varying footage into what we see. At the screening I saw, Josh Trank referred to it as a PoV movie, which is a much better term. The secret piece of knowledge you need is that his dad’s a documentarian, and Trank’s intimately familiar with that form. The movie is titled Chronicle because it’s a documentary. Sort of.

It’s not a documentary from the world of the film, though. It’s a movie that’s made in the documentary style. There’s no voice over, no connective tissue, no explanation: just footage from a variety of sources. That choice works because it’s a mirror of how Andrew, the protagonist, sees the world. He fits right into the isolated teen niche, unable to relate to his peers because his adolescence has been stunted by his abusive father and the emotional absence of his dying mother. His environment is established in the first minute of the movie. He’s filming everything because it allows him to both hide and document.

Trank also mentioned that his goal is to make character-oriented films that happen to be genre pictures. He nailed it. The powers are a device to heighten the drama of Andrew’s journey. I found the movie to be rather harrowing at some points, because it’s so raw and painful. Andrew is a sympathetic character all the way through.

Spoilers and loose thoughts coming up next.